Friday, January 6, 2012

Truly "A World At Play," Mohegan Sun Casino Is Mall-like And Wonderful (Save The Smoke).

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The Good: Generally good atmosphere, Great options for gaming and dining, Interesting layout
The Bad: Senseless smoking/nonsmoking distinctions.
The Basics: Interesting for its gaming and shopping options, Mohegan Sun Casino And Resort in Connecticut offers a pretty wonderful adult or family experience.

In the last year, I seem to find myself reviewing sequels and spin-offs before I review the originals upon which they are based. This might seem like a much bigger deal in movies where I have seen innumerable sequels of late before actually tuning into the original versions of films that the sequels follow up on. In travel, I found it somewhat amusing that I needed to review both Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Casino and the much more famous and well-established Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort. The former was on my way home from a trip to Maryland in northern Pennsylvania. The latter, I finally went to while on a trip to Boston from New York City. Having found myself killing a day in Connecticut, Mohegan Sun Casino seemed like a fun place to stop.

Quite simply, it was. Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort is a decent casino that is almost entirely family and employee friendly offering both great gambling and shopping options as well as frequent impressive entertainment choices for those who journey there or live in Connecticut and want something fun to do. The only thing, in the end, that drags this casino down is that it fails to be audacious enough in the public health regard and as prejudiced as it might seem, I find this especially problematic at casinos run by native American Indians. After all, every tribe I have ever studied regards the bonds between human and environment as sacred, so the idea that the Mohegan tribe would put the profitability of encouraging patrons to poison the air and their lungs over upholding their sacred traditions is problematic at best. Why does this issue come up in my review of Mohegan Sun exclusively? Simple: Mohegan Sun is such a vast casino and resort that it is almost inarguable that the casino and tribe could not afford to separate out smoking and nonsmoking casino floors. Doubt it? Read on!

Mohegan Sun Casino: came in with $5.00, left with $5.00 (several hours later!).


Mohegan Sun is an immense slot-machine dominated casino located at 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd. in Uncasville, CT. This is just just north of New London, Connecticut and seemed to be conveniently located about midway between New York City and Boston. I approached it from the south and there were simple directions from Interstate 95. Billboards dictated that one get off I-95 at exit 76, take I-395 north a few miles to exit 79A and even without a pamphlet with similar directions, there were easy and obvious road signs leading me to the casino. Uncasville, Connecticut seems to be dominated by Mohegan Sun, at least as far as businesses go.

Mohegan Sun has a huge parking area, including an impressive parking garage with self-parking that seems like it would be impossible to fill, but was pretty packed when I went there on a Wednesday morning! Mohegan Sun claims to have 13,000 parking spots and one suspects that is including the self- and valet parking. Outside the ancestral land of the Mohegans, there is nothing around Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort.


Mohegan Sun is huge, easily dwarfing any other casino I can recall being in. While other casinos have been proud of their 2,000 video slot machines, Mohegan Sun boasts more than 6,000 video slot machines spread out over two casinos! Yes, there are two (three, though the new one is basically an add-on to one of the others) casinos within Mohegan Sun. There is a map that came in handy, which illustrates how difficult it can be to find one's way around this casino unaided! This is because the casinos are separated by entertainment centers, a multilevel mall and a hotel!

The casino is spaced and dressed up like a mall, save the main lobby where one signs up for their player's card. This is fairly appropriate because between the two casinos - the Casino Of The Earth and the Casino Of The Sky - is a mall (the new extension, the smaller Casino Of The Wind, is an addendum to the Casino Of The Sky). The casinos are basically arranged as wheels around displays of Mohegan history and culture or a bar (no, sadly, that is not a joke). From virtually anywhere on the gaming floor, one may either see symbols of Mohegan culture or a bar atop an artificial mountain. The banks of video slots are remarkably regular, though like many casinos, banks are arranged periodically perpendicular to one another so one may not walk too far in a straight line without running into more slot machines. The general pathway around the casino, though, is curved and the quickest way around Mohegan Sun is to either stay in the mall-like hallway off the gaming floor or go to the center.

The high ceilings manage to dissipate much of the cigarette and cigar smoke that is prevalent in the casino. But here is where the casino's plan makes no real sense; the casino is clearly oriented toward families (there is a massive arcade and play area in addition to the two-level mall separating the two casino floors) and as family-friendly places quickly tread toward the nonsmoking, Mohegan Sun has nothing to lose by segregating the smokers. In other words, instead of making pathetic passes at nonsmoking areas - movable signs that delineate where smoking is and is not permitted - Mohegan Sun could just as easily dedicate an entire casino to nonsmokers and give the smokers their own dank, smoky wing as opposed to plaguing nonsmokers with less-than-full concentrations of cigarette and cigar smoke. The weak attempts to cater to nonsmokers while actually leaving smokers with more genuine options drags Mohegan Sun casino down a full notch. There were occasional signs designating smoking and nonsmoking areas within the casino, but there was absolutely no enforcement of that and the delineation is absolutely ridiculous as the floor is an open area with no walls. The result is that smoke is everywhere and in the smoking area - where some of the best games were exclusively - no one enforces the nonsmoking border.

As for the "atmosphere" of the Mohegan Sun, this is a casino trading on the gambling AND shopping, so there is a surprisingly family friendly atmosphere to it. The women serving drinks on the casino floor wore short shorts and sleeveless button-down shirts. The floor was well stocked with workers for security and maintenance, even on a Wednesday morning, lending to a very safe feeling. Were it not for all of the smoke in the air, this would have been a remarkably fun casino to play at. That said, this is more family-friendly and the staff reflects more practicality than the voyeuristic joys of the Las Vegas casinos. The main lobby where one gets their player's club card has the look and feel of being a bus lobby, ironically, because it is one!

Gaming Options/Player's Club

I have a very simple gambling philosophy: I sit down at a slot machine with $5.00. I work it up to $10 or down to zero. At Mohegan Sun, I played my five dollars, won enough for lunch and left after quite some time with only my initial five bucks. Not bad for a fairly full day of play.

As I continue to accumulate gambling experience, I know what I like when it comes to video slot machines: I like the ones that are fun! If I'm winning, I would rather do it on a machine I enjoy and if I lose, I would rather do that on a machine that I am having fun playing regardless. I like machines with interesting graphics and great bonus games. I tend to enjoy the slots that are more girly themed or video game-like, and I was quite satisfied when I was at Mohegan Sun, largely because virtually every game was replicated in both casinos (further making it baffling to not have an entirely nonsmoking casino). Mohegan Sun had the video slot machine based on The Empire Strikes Back (reviewed here! ), along with Rebel Assault (a new-to-me video slot machine!) and a few other Star Wars themed video slots which were prevalent enough to allow me play . . . in the nonsmoking area!

Still, there were a ton of video slot machines and traditional slot machines to have fun on. I ended up enjoying myself on "Mystical Mermaid" and "It Paid From Outer Space!" There were several machines that were new to me, but the line-up included several machines I seem to find everywhere, like Monster Mansion, Hoot Loot, Carnival Of Mystery, $tinkin' Rich, Pharaoh's Fortune, Pomepei, Ebay, Millionizer and hundreds of others. In fact, it soon became pointless to me to record all of the video slot machines I was seeing because with over sixty-five hundred, there were literally thousands of different video slot machines! It would be easier for me to record which video slots I played or saw in Las Vegas that were not at Mohegan Sun ("Mermaid's Fortune," a new video slot that was usually found near "Goldfish Gold" is the only one that comes instantly to mind). Mohegan Sun Casino had an impressive selection and in decent quantities.

For those who might be into games of chance and card games instead of the fun and controlled reinforcement of video slot machines, there was a poker room with Texas Hold 'Em, Ohama, roulette, and blackjack. As well, there was a sports bar for and a simulcast center for betting on sports events and horse racing, as well as Keno.

There is a player's club at the Mohegan Sun, which is simply the Mohegan Sun Player's Club. Strangely, though, it is not attached to the Mohegan Sun At Pocono Downs' Player's Club. Signing up is easy. Simply present a driver's license at the player's club center and get a card. Signing up nets the visitor nothing, at least when I went. One supposes that when a casino is this large, they do not need to cater to the players with incentives.

Entertainment Options

Mohegan Sun is amazing as far as entertainment goes. Whatwith a 10,000 seat amphitheater, Mohegan Sun boasts national acts almost every night of the week. Say what you will about Britney Spears, she still manages to sell-out giant theaters and stadiums and the fact that Mohegan Sun Casino was booking her for two nights over two months is a testament to the size and power of this casino. Billy Joel, Eddie Money, country music performers like Keith Urban and classic standards like Paul Anka all make the rounds to Mohegan Sun. This is a great venue for those looking for entertainment independent of gambling!

Dining Options

Mohegan Sun is part-mall, so naturally there is a pretty massive food court with a great selection of dining options. Rather than going to the buffet - sorry, but once one has had Las Vegas buffets for $10/a meal, it is hard to justify $20.00 buffets like the lunch buffet at the Seasons Buffet at Mohegan Sun, I opted for the food court Geno's Fast Break fast food food court. A collection of American, Mexican, Chinese and Italian fast food and dessert options, I found Geno's to be a pleasant surprise that was a good mix of affordable and decent portions for my lunch. In addition to its own fast food place, there was the buffet, and several recognizable names like Ben & Jerry's, Michael Jordan's Steakhouse, Starbucks, Johnny Rockets, and Jimmy Buffett's Margairitaville.

For those who do not do buffets or fast food, there were bars, sushi bars and a steakhouses. The food looked good everywhere and prices range, from the reasonable to the expensive.

Shopping Options

Mohegan Sun is, as mentioned, a mall with a casinos flanking it. This casino had extensive shopping options, almost all of which was overpriced. There are several shopping options with recognizable names like Brookstone, Coach, Godiva, Tiffany and Yankee Candle Co. There was a wine and cheese shop I considered spending my winnings at (if only I had made any!) and while all of the shopping options were pricey, it made for a very different feel to the casino and encouraged players to spend their winnings . . . or keep playing on the hope of earning enough for some coveted trinket.


Mohegan Sun would be a lot more fun if it weren't for the smoky atmosphere, but given the entertainment and shopping diversity of this casino, it is tough to imagine one that is much better than this!

For other casino reviews, please check out my takes on:
Seneca Niagara Casino
Isle Of Capri
Excalibur Casino


For other travel reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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